Niche Site Income Pt 5: Choosing a URL that Will Get You Ranked

One of the easiest things you can do to help get fast, free traffic to a new niche site is choose the right web address.

Some careful thought before grabbing web hosting and launching a site will increase the chances that you get ranked this month rather thank next year.

It’s also helps increase the chances that you end up on the first page or two rather than down in traffic-less purgatory.

So what’s the secret to a good URL?

Getting Some Google Love

It’s important to realize that there’s no guaranteed magic bullet when it comes to getting ranked. The trick is to stack as many factors in your favor as you can to increase your chances of search traffic. Getting the right URL is one of those factors.

Choose a  URL that has the exact keyword phrase in it that you want to rank for. This has proven to be a rank a site quickly, especially for a hyper-targeted phrase that is not overly competitive.

There’s some debate as to whether a keyword-based URL still has the same benefit. It’s certainly possible that Google has lowered the impact this strategy has.

But for now it still works at least to some degree. I say, if it give you one more leg up then why not do it. In my experience it really helps.

How to Find a URL When All the Good Ones are Taken

When we started Internet Business Mastery, we knew we wanted to rank for the phrase internet business. We included it in our brand name as well as our web address.

Before launching my podcasting site, I figured out the top phrase that people searched for in my niche was how to podcast.

The ideal URL for this phrase would have been Sadly, that was already taken. This will often be the case for hot keyword phrases.

Fortunately you get the same benefit even if you add a word to the end of the phrase. For example, we added the word mastery to Internet business to get

For my podcasting site I added the word tutorial to how to podcast. You might notice this gave me a URL that targeted two phrases: how to podcast and podcast tutorial. So my URL is:

To Hyphenate or Not to Hyphenate

I get asked a lot about the hyphens. In 2005 when I launched the site, there was a lot of talk about using hyphens to help each keyword stand out more to Google. There’s no longer any benefit to this.

Luckily I own the non-hyphenated version of the URL. I’ll change the site over to that in the near future.

The bottom line is don’t use hyphens. It’s seems to hinder more than help now.

But What About the Brand?

Another direction to go is to create a brand-based name and URL instead of keyword-based.

Examples of niche sites with brand-style URLs are:

Incidentally, these sites are are all from Internet Business Mastery students.

None of these addresses contain a primary keyword phrase for the purpose of ranking. Rather, the site creators have gone for catchy brand-based names.

In the last post I talked about three money-making models: ads, affiliate and original products. If your plan is to build an authoritative site that is a top resource in your niche, then it’s entirely valid (and maybe even better) to choose a URL that has brand power.

But if the goal is to get fast traffic for a micro-niche site that makes money from AdSense or other ads, then a keyword-based web address is much more important.

The reason is that it’s not likely to be worth your time to do other traffic generation. So it’s important to stack every search engine factor in your favor early on to get faster cash flow.

So when choosing your URL keep in mind the long-term goals of your site.

An ideal URL is a hybrid of the brand and keyword approach. is an example of this. It’s a strong brand name in addition to being keyword-based.

URL Selection Action Guide

Action ItemAction Item: Here’s the process for picking the best URL for your niche site.

  1. Decide what your long-term goals are for the site
  2. Choose whether it’s more important to have a keyword-based or brand-based URL for the site
  3. Choose the primary keyword phrase that you would like to target
  4. Brainstorm web address names that contain your keyword and find one that is available OR brainstorm brand name ideas for your site
  5. Choose your URL and register it with hosting for your  site

A great tool for checking available domains quickly is Instant Domain Search.

And now I want to hear from you. How do you choose the right URL for a new site? What questions do you have about finding the best URL? Sound off in the comments below.

Other Niche Site Income posts:


  1. concur for the most part J

    it’s def better to have your KW in the URL from an SEO perspective, though we are seeing more exact match domains slip in ranks (hard to determine the rationale).

    that said, brand establishment is a whole different story as you mentioned, especially if you have an exit strategy (i.e. sale) in mind. the same goes for maybe an ecomm store that sells physical products.

    whether to hyphenate or not, i have both types of domains ranking on page one spot one, so again, difficult to determine.

    one thing is for sure though, my older sites that are content heavy and more established in terms of domain age, back links, etc are holding strong regardless of the domain type and whether hyphenated.

    it appears to me that modifications in search algos are prospective in nature. in other words, a solid established site is rarely retroactively affected (hurt), unless there are obvious reasons, which thus means newer sites are more difficult to rank even if you follow everything you are supposed to do, or simply mimic a previously successful but much older and established website.

    ah the beauty of what internet marketers are having to deal with today :)

    • Sunil,

      You are correct that the hyphenation thing is speculative. I certainly still see hyphenated sites get ranked. I think my concern is more for click through rate from the search engine ranking pages. Even there, though, I don’t think I’ve seen definitive data.

      Yes, this is the beauty of what we get to deal with. So many variables!

  2. Jay, “Choose whether it’s more important to have a keyword-based or brand-based URL for the site” – I find this still quite difficult to decide. Any tips on how to decide this? Great post.

    • The more dedicated you are to going the distance with your site and brand, the less critical it is to have a keyword-based URL.

      That is to say, if you are passionate about the topic, want to create a strong brand, plan to create lots of content, intend to drive traffic through diverse means…

      …then you will have plenty else stacked in your favor for attracting attention to your site. And sometimes in this case a catchy brand name goes even further for getting you long-term attention.

      At the other end of the spectrum is the small, micro-niche strategy. These are small sites with limited content. To make money you have to crank lots of them out.

      You don’t have the luxury of putting lots of time into promoting these sites. They need to rank fast. They need every simple factor possible to be set up just right for quick traffic.

      In this case, a keyword specific URL is going to be really important. Not only that, it’s also going to be really important to go after niches that are less competitive.

  3. Great post. I recently did a little research on the hyphenation question as I thought it might help me find a url that wasn’t already taken. Several people have mentioned that when words are run together, multiple choices could come out of it. For example, a url for pen island could become pen#s land. You get the picture. This is probably a rare exception.

  4. Just wondering, when the keywords are competitive, if this strategy can have any meaningful impact for search. Seems like using popular keywords in a URL alone won’t don’t the trick. You’ll still need to have relevant content and backlinks in place.

    • The more competitive, the more effort it will require.

      Again, this is not a magic bullet.

      When we first started, we knew that “internet business” was really competitive. However, we also knew that over time it would still give us a leg up to target the phrase in our name and URL.

      For years now we have had people talking about and linking to us using the phrase “internet business.”

      Recently Google started giving the smack down to sites that are “overoptimized” in their link-building. If a high percentage of your back links use your exact phrase in link text, they now see that as “unnatural.”

      An exception to that is if the phrase is in your brand name or URL, then clearly it is natural and you can get away with it.

      It’s just one of many things you can do to help things along. In some niches, it will get you ranked fast.

      In the case of my podcasting site, I was ranked within a couple weeks simply by having the right keywords in my URL.

  5. Jay, LOVE the Vandelay graphic. I am in need of a real good latex salesman btw…

    I have found hyphens to still work quite well, depending on the niche. The less competitive the better obviously. But post Penguin, there’s some good data that hyphens may even ensure less Penguin slapping…Jon Ledger wrote a killer post on it on his blog, worth checking out.

    • In non-competitive niches, they do seem to still work. My reasoning for avoiding them is:

      1) There is really no need to use them since there are other creative solutions

      2) There is some evidence that people are less likely to click on a hyphenated URL.

  6. Can you say whether putting a word in front of domain name works as well? e.g. For a town portal in Plymouth ??? Thanks Si

  7. I think content has to be the number one focus. Google is always looking for ways to keep content as the number one factor in ranking. It seems their updates are attempts to lower the importance of anything that does not truly contribute to content. I’m game for trying anything legitimate that helps in ranking, but if you are in it for the long haul than I know if you hang your hat on content then you won’t go wrong.